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Technology and startups in hardware
Hardware Innovation is Hard
There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the hardware revolution and how new hardware startups are going to disrupt the market. The pieces are almost all there – the excitement, the crowdfunding, the computing power in smartphones, but let’s face it… hardware is still hard.
While you can create new software in a garage with a few people and some computers, building a physical hardware product requires a large team to do design, engineering, testing, packaging, certification, supply chain and logistics. And, unlike software, you can’t roll out new versions of hardware the moment you find a bug and create a fix – your product has to work right the first time and every time someone uses it. When we first started working with startups, we were seeing that they were all encountering the same problems :
1) They had a great idea and a prototype, but they didn’t have all the engineering expertise needed to build a product that is ready for manufacturing. It’s one thing to build five units of a product, but it’s completely different to build 500 or even 5,000 units. And they all have to reliably work when someone tries to use them.
2) People were trying to design products at home in the USA and do the manufacturing overseas in China. When you’re trying to do rapid product development, having the design located close to manufacturing is key – not only do you get quicker feedback on how your design affects manufacturing and vice versa, but it’s also easier to coordinate between teams when they’re located in the same timezone. True, it’s fun to go over to China and experience a different culture and rack up frequent flier miles, but all the traveling gets old after a while.
We started Lab IX because we knew that it’s difficult for hardware startups to interface with traditional contract manufacturing companies – most are used to working with the top electronics companies in the world, producing volumes on the order of millions of units per year. But, what if you’re just starting out and only need 600 units to fulfill the orders from your successful Kickstarter campaign? What if you only have pre-orders and don’t have the $300k needed to do design for manufacturing tweaks so that your product can be produced with the right reliability and quality your customers are expecting? Or, what if you don’t have the $1M in the bank that you need to secure a $200k credit line to actually start manufacturing products?
We knew that something had to change in order to bring about a new age for hardware startups. In order to be successful, startups need to have the same tools and funding that the large hardware companies have, so we decided to provide it. Lab IX is here to democratize manufacturing and change the game for hardware startups by giving them access to the same tools, expertise and funding that the big guys have.
Face it – hardware is hard.
How To Create The Perfect Home Office
Whether you are building a new home work space or converting a room into your office, this is an exciting moment for your business. You finally get to create the space where you will become a successful business woman doing something you love.
Forbes says that when you work from home, you need a space that inspires you to get up and “go to work,” even if that means walking down the hall. Take the time to design your new home office so you will be truly inspired to work at home.
Start with the Empty Space
Before anything else is in the room, bring in a chair, sit down, close your eyes, and visualize yourself working in this space. Where are you facing? How is the lighting? How are your supplies organized? What other furniture is in the room? How easy is it to move around the room? This simple exercise will tell you a lot about where you will be most productive.
Formal or Informal?
Entrepreneur notes a work environment that is too casual may not encourage you to be productive. Find the balance between a space that feels comfortable enough to work in your PJs, and one that requires a business suit. Some women find they are more productive when they dress up a bit. A less casual office may make you feel like you’re “going to the office” and get your mind into work mode.
Get Wired — And Wireless
Few things are more annoying than having to stretch an extension cord across the room. If building a room, place outlets every six or eight feet on every wall. If working with an existing room, add baseboard outlets to give you more flexibility.
It’s also wise to review your home network set-up to make sure you have all the bandwidth you need. Look at a service such as http://www.centurylinkbundles.com/ for packages that fit your business and your budget. Your home network is your connection to the “outside world,” so you will want speed and reliability.
You will want a way to “close off” your office from the rest of the house. This could simply be the door to the room, or a privacy screen, if you’re using just a portion of a room. Ideally, you want to be in your office without the sight and sound distractions of your living space. Also, when you leave your office, you want to shut off that space from the house, indicating that you have “left work”. This way, you will be able to focus on the reason you are in each space without distractions.
The Comfort Factor
A little color can go a long way to making an inspiring place to work. Karen Haller specializes in the psychology of color. She writes in Women Unlimited Worldwide that the right colors on the wall, along with accessories, will affect your motivation in that space. For example, she suggests light blue for creativity and green for calm and balance.
When you start to furnish your space, nothing will be a better investment than your desk chair. If your work requires a lot of sitting, a great desk chair is as valuable to you as a pair of high-performance shoes is to a runner. At the end of your work day, you’ll appreciate the comfort and support of a good chair.
These few things will start you on your way to creating that ideal work space at home. You’ll have a space you want to go to where you can be creative and productive. Don’t cut corners. Make this the space where you and your talents can really flourish.
Google Glass Is Only The First Step Toward Nanotechnology
Google’s earnings for the second quarter of 2013 reminded me that the search giant faces some challenges. Expenses moved up a couple of billion dollars from the same quarter in 2012.
(See http://venturebeat.com/2013/07/18/after-a-quarter-of-huge-momentum-goog-posts-14-11b-in-revenue). More troubling, Business Insider said, “The total number of paid clicks that Google gets continues to go up, but Google gets paid less for each one. In other words, Google’s rock is still rolling up the hill but it takes a lot more energy to maintain that momentum than it used to.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/this-is-why-google-missed-its-q2-revenue-expectations-2013-7)
Google may have to do some fast dancing with its current short term pricing and also with its innovations over a longer period of time. It’s no surprise that the competition is nearing. For example, Microsoft is working on a wristwatch smartphone described in “Microsoft Testing Surface Watch”. (See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10185372/Microsoft-testing-Surface-watch.html).
Perhaps this urgency is the reason Google has been pushing forward with Google Glass’s next version. On the recent quarter’s earnings call, Larry Page, Google’s senior manager, said: “I love using Glass because I feel like every time I’m using Glass I’m living that future, that’s really, really exciting to me.” (See http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-googles-larry-page-over-the-moon-about-glass-and-other-moonshots-20130719,0,219679.story).
Have I inadvertently glimpsed one possible trajectory for Google Glass? Is Google leapfrogging smartphones as wristwatches and moving beyond contact lenses and belt packs? Is Google looking to make revenue waves in medical diagnostics, nanomachines, and possibly DNA-scale communication devices? Google Glass might just be lapping our ideas of science fiction. Perhaps that $2 billion jump in R&D an indication that clean rooms, new research facilities, and world-class nanotechnology experts are signaling a new direction for Google. It’s not unthinkable they are dipping into nano-bioengineering and synthetic biology. Could Google become a nanotechnology giant? I found some interesting open source intelligence which may help frame this question, but I only know one thing for certain: Google is not doing much talking about self-assembly, bioengineering, and nanotechnology.
A month ago, I was sitting in Hotel Zetta near Union Square watching for Glass owners and reading on my iPad an article about Microsoft’s answer to Google Glass. Glass, as you probably know, is a smartphone converted to a heads up display. A Glass user dons a pair of eyeglasses and voilà, the smartphone display is hovering in the Glass wearer’s field of vision. The gizmo is controlled with voice commands like “Okay, Glass” or by touching the temple of the eyeglasses. While intriguing, Glass is not perfect. But regadless, Google’s clever public relations machine has propelled the new tool into headline news status, sending the tech savvy world in a frenzy. Google, once again, is delivering the future. Sure, Glass reminded me of the robot’s enhanced vision in The Terminator, but the form factor was almost a dead ringer for the eye wear of Geordi La Forge in the sci-fi blockbuster Star Trek: The Next Generation and its feature films.
The young person sitting next to me in the hotel lobby knocked a pile of photocopies to the floor. I put down my iPad and helped the person pick up the scattered papers. One photocopy was a big fat book chapter or technical article. I glanced at the title and noticed the word “self-assembly.” I asked them if I could copy down the title of the thick photocopy. The person said, “Sure, it’s from a textbook.”
The chapter was called “Using Biomolecules for Self-Assembly of Engineered Nano-Scale Structures and Devices.” I had some time to poke around and I was able to locate a PDF of the information written by Ranjana Mehta, John Lund, and Babak A. Parviz. The “Parviz” name triggered in my memory the fact that the Google Glass project lead was a fellow named Babak Amirparviz. Was this the same person? If so, why two different names?
I remember that in my past Google research, I discovered that often times when Google hires a smart person, they—for some reason—publish under a modified name. Examples include Alon Levy (dataspaces expert) becoming Alon Halevy and Charles Lee (Glass business development professional) working as Steve Lee. Was Dr. Babak Parviz the same person as the head of Glass, Dr. Babak Amirparviz? I poked around and learned, interestingly enough, that it was the same expert.
When I surfed through my collection of Google open source documents, I noticed that Dr. Parviz/Amirparviz delivered a lecture at a conference about putting electronic devices on a contact lens. The talk was from 2008 and a version of that presentation was published by the IEEE in 2008 as document 978-1-4244-1793-3/08 with the title “Contact Lens with Integrated Inorganic Semiconductor Devices.”
Dr. Amirparviz is the Glass project manager. Does it make sense that a world-leading expert in self-assembly, fluidics, and nanotechnology, would confine his efforts to the clunky eyeglasses form factor? Isn’t the trajectory more likely to be from the eyeglasses to a contact lens and then to even smaller devices?
Obviously, a user may not tolerate a contact lens version of Glass. This begs the question: is there a way to put a smartphone or, at least, most of its components into a much smaller form factor? I began wondering whether the display required to generate the augmented reality display could be presented as part of the eyeball itself. I recalled that a UK newspaper writing about a Glass engineer stated: “[Thad] Starner met Larry Page and Sergey Brin, cofounders of Google, in 1998, and they talked about how cool it would be to have a computer in your eyeball. Later, Page offered him a job with Google.” Dr. Starner is a member of the Glass team. The York Dispatch added, “His doctoral work, titled “Wearable Computing and Contextual Awareness,” dealt with pattern recognition and how wearable computing can be used for purposes such as recognizing hand motions used in sign language.” (Source: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/news/ci_20750762/)
But the book chapter I spotted on that café floor continued to suggest a more significant application of the wearable computing idea, perhaps one beyond a contact lens. The answer, in part, may be tucked into the dense language of Dr. Parviz/Amirparviz’s work. I tracked down the source of the “self-assembly” chapter. “Using Biomolecules for Self-Assembly of Engineered Nano-Scale Structures and Devices” appeared in Nanofabrication: Fundamentals and Applications edited by a fellow with a memorable name, Ampere A. Tseng. The book was published in 2008 by World Scientific.
The main point of this particular chapter written by Dr. Parviz/Amirparviz and two associates is that nanoscale self-assembly makes possible components and devices. The work of Dr. Parviz/Amirparviz is focused on implementing devices which are at the nano-scale. “Nano” refers to a nanometer, one-billionth of a meter. These can be built using nano assembly. Chemistry and physical properties become the methods for hooking, connecting, and coating nano-scale components. If Dr. Parviz/Amirparviz is correct about nanotechnology, Google Glass and related implementations will follow a miniaturization trajectory which propels devices to get smaller and smaller, such as those that can be embedded in a button or swallowed. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told a conference audience last year that he would swallow robots in the future (See http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/blog/2012/10/eric-schmidt-plans-to-swallow-robots.html), and for those not so eager to ingest them, they can also be injected into a living organism.
Let’s assume that this steady march to miniaturization is motivating companies like Google to hire experts like Dr. Parviz/Amirparviz. What are the implications for professionals using computer technology?
First, the traditional devices will not go away, but the manufacturing processes are likely to undergo significant change. Opportunities will be created, but some companies may find that their products and services cannot be easily reengineered to meet the micro-scale and nano-scale future.
Second, the emergence of self-assembly may drive the cost of semiconductors to even lower prices than one can find in the store today. The proliferation of low-cost, powerful computing devices melts away barriers to ubiquitous computing.
Third, the data generated by large numbers of tiny devices which can communicate means that Big Data will become Even Bigger Data. One application area alone, like medical monitoring, creates a flow of high-value data which will require new approaches to collating and analyzing the outputs of nano-scale monitors.
Fourth, the notion of wearing goggles or putting an uncomfortable lens in one’s eye to make a phone call or look up a location on a digital map becomes as old fashioned as the brick cell phone. The new approach will be to have nano-devices assemble themselves in one’s eye.
The goal is not glasses. Glasses, clearly, are just a bridge to the goal. And that goal may be to embed a computer in your eyeball.
I must admit that these implementations are likely to be years, maybe decades in the future. I think I will skip the smartphone watch and smartphone contact lens. A nano-device sounds just right to me. The interesting thought is that for many young people, a nano-device will be the obvious choice. Only old people carry a smartphone, wear a watch, or insert a contact lens.
Nano-devices are likely to be hotter than the latest Nike sneaker.
Why Tablets Are The Future Of Mobile Gaming? by GREE’s Anil Dharni
There is no doubt that the tablet market is the fastest growing space in gaming. Tablet adoption continues to rise faster than ever and more users are opting for tablets as their primary gaming device–mainly due to their better display quality, enhanced gameplay, and delivery of a more console-like experience.
This growth has been seen worldwide, beyond our North American borders, and is surely a phenomenon that will continue to occur throughout the next years.
This growth has been closely measured in numbers with the most recent data from IDC showing tablets experiencing record growth of 142.4% year-over-year, in the first quarter of this year. From a financial standpoint, tablets have also been monetizing better with an increase of 5% in mobile transactions in the last year alone. With competition amongst tablet-makers getting stronger and a larger variety of form factors emerging, more mobile game developers are realizing the importance of shifting their strategies to include tablets. In contrast, PC shipments are going down and tablet adoption has been accelerating at a much higher speed than mobile phones were when they first launched, clearly showcasing a huge shift in the gaming industry’s landscape.
At GREE, we have been focused on creating experiences for the tablet and have done so for a while. In fact, our tablet-first strategy dates back to our early days at Funzio, almost 2.5 years ago. Despite industry skeptics, we were convinced that tablets were going to be the future; if we could create games on both the tablet and smartphones, we would be successful. We took a risk, but, in hindsight, it was one that clearly proved to be a win for the company. When GREE acquired Funzio in May 2012, we were already seeing over 50% of our revenues coming from our tablet games and have seen that happen continuously since our shift in strategy.
In realizing this trend, other mobile game developers have been responding to the growing
demand by not only adapting to, but also creating titles entirely dedicated to the tablet experience. Beyond the market growth and consumer demand, the benefits of developing games for tablets is also helping to solidify the industry’s shift in embracing tablets as the ultimate gaming platform.
Up until the “tablet era,” mobile games consisted of super casual, simple, one-dimensional experiences that didn’t include much depth or complexity. Thanks to tablets, gameplay on mobile devices is becoming closer to a console-like experience. While an obvious benefit, the larger screen size of tablets allows for more information and content to be shown at any one time and also eliminates or decreases the need to swipe around for content that is not readily visible. This can have a major impact on the level of player engagement and can help promote a more captive gameplay experience–like on a console. Also, the tablet’s ability to deliver more immersive gameplay has opened the door to new genres like MMOs, strategy, and hardcore games, which were once exclusive to the console space.
The mobile gaming ecosystem is evolving in complexity as evidenced by the fact that more traditional console developers are getting into the mix. With that shift, consumers are becoming more sophisticated and wanting to experience games that are of console quality. Higher screen resolution, more powerful hardware, and faster processing speeds of tablets help to deliver high definition, 3D, and visually gratifying games to users like never before. There are still tremendous opportunities in mobile devices for the gaming industry; the ultimate goal is to bring a console-like experience over to mobile, and tablets are helping to bridge that gap.
Monetization is another major driver for mobile developers to adopt a tablet-focused approach. As previously mentioned, bigger screens, higher quality 3D graphics, and more immersive game genres contribute to a heightened, engaging gaming experience. More importantly, though, a richer gaming experience can have a dramatic impact on monetization with more players opting to make in-game purchases to further enhance their gameplay and performance. Outside game mechanics and technical superiority, it is no surprise that tablet owners, by default, will showcase a higher ARPU (average revenue per user) as they tend to have a more disposable income compared to smartphone users. Naturally, game developers will want to target this segment, especially in the world of free-to-play games, where developers generate revenue through in-game microtransactions.
At GREE, we continue to heavily focus on our tablet-first strategy and make unique gaming experiences tailored for these devices. For instance, when developing our first hardcore game - War of Nations (released in June 2013)–we made a conscious decision to emphasize a tablet experience. While the game is available for smartphones and tablets, we knew that hardcore gamers would gravitate towards playing on tablets and felt that the level of deep strategy involved would lend itself to be better played on a tablet. Our users are always craving more sophisticated content, and we wanted to make sure we were creating rich experiences that they’d enjoy. As
Forrester reports, we will continue to see tablet shipments and sales grow with the expectation of hitting 44 million units by 2015–meaning a rise in untapped opportunities for tablets, leading to more mobile gaming developers getting creative and entering the tablet race. In addition to the tablet market’s continuous growth, I think there will be a rise in different types of tablets as well including new sizes, manufacturers, functionalities, and display qualities.
In the little town of Colorado, Deer Creek, there is going to be a community-wide vote that will decide whether or not to issue hunting licenses for drones. One hundred dollars will be rewarded to “drone hunters” who shoot down drones and are able to give evidence in the form of “identifiable parts,” whose characteristics and design are compatible with the craft known to be “owned and operated by the United States federal government,” states Vice.com
In response to the illegal nature of drone hunting, resident Philip Steel questioned, “Is it illegal? Of course it is. But it’s also illegal to spy on American citizens. If they fly in town, we will shoot them down.”
Philip Steel wrote the ordinance after he learned that the FAA would be allowing drones to inhabit domestic airspaces.
Some town officials and citizens are worried that the quick growth of domestic drones will threaten personal privacy. While others believe that Drone Hunting is an act in agreement with the concerns of privacy groups, civil liberties activists and many state and federal lawmakers. Those “pushing the Deer Trail ordinance argue that citizens must resist the unprecedented surveillance capabilities brought by drones,” says the Washington Post.
However, some believe that drone hunting is being promoted in order to give the town notoriety, potentially leading to a lucrative town festival.
“We would be home to one of the world’s first drone hunt,” said town clerk Kim Oldfield. “It sounds scary, and it sounds super vigilante and frightening…the real idea behind this … is it’s a potentially fun moneymaker, and it could be really cool for our community and we’ve needed something to bring us together, and this could be fun,” she said.
However, when news of the proposed ordinance surfaced, the federal Aviation Administration told Deer Trail to abandon its plan or face retribution.
A drone “hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, and it could collide with other objects in the air,” the FAA statement said in part. “Shooting an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane”.
Some view the ordinance as a protest against having their privacy violated.
“I don’t want to live in a surveillance society. I don’t feel like being in a virtual prison” he said, explaining his motivation.
The drone industry’s leading trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, has had no comment on the Deer Trail ordinance.
Top Tech & Startup News - 7 Things You Missed Today the
Tech and Startup News for August 7th, 2013:
1. Zynga shutting down OMGPOP
It’s been barely two years since Zynga purchased OMGPOP for $200 million, but now, Zynga has confirmed plans to shut down the game developer. Although some OMGPOP team members had attempted to buy back the OMGPOP.com site, games, and intellectual property, Zynga refused to sell anything from the company. OMGPOP games like Cupcake Corner, Snoops, and Gem Rush will all shut down on August 29th. The website for the company will also go dark at the end of September.
2. Hacktivist Richard Stallman advocates for ’truly free software’
During a recent lecture, held at NYU, the controversial hacker Richard Stallman warned that proprietary and open-sourced software is not as free as it claims to be. In order for software to really be free, Stallman claimed, it must include:
-The freedom to run the program in question, for any purpose
-The freedom to study how that program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish - in other words, the freedom to access its source code
-The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
-And, lastly, the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others for the same reason
3. The Department of Commerce might be reviving a part of SOPA
The Stop Online Piracy Act died last year in Congress. However, a piece of its legislation might be returning from the dead. The Department of Commerce’s Internet Task Force recently endorsed SOPA’s proposal to make the streaming of copyrighted works a felony. Although the streaming of copyrighted works is currently against the law, the offense is only a misdemeanor. If the proposal becomes a law, someone illegally streaming copyrighted works will be punished as severely as someone who illegally reproduced and distributed copyrighted works to the public.
4. Amazon launches artwork marketplace
You could soon purchase a work by Claude Monet without ever having to change from your pajamas. Amazon has recently announced that, with Amazon Art, the web-retailer has created an online gallery, which would allow people to buy artworks from prestigious collections around the country, while still at home. Among other galleries, the site currently promises access to collections from the Paddle8, Holden Luntz, and the McLoughlin galleries.
5. Google will update its searches for more in-depth in articles
Google revealed that the company is adding a new feature for its search function, which highlights “in-depth” articles associated with your search requests. Google has yet to provide many details about the company’s definition of “in-depth.” However, Google officials have claimed that search results are “ranked algorithmically based on many signals that look for high-quality, in-depth content.” Currently, Google users will only be able to use this feature if they use google.com in English.
6. Mozilla releases a new version of FireFox
FireFox 23 is here. This newest update to the browser features a number of changes, including but not limited to a mixed content blocker and a network monitor on the desktop side. If you squint at the new FireFox logo for long enough, you may notice that it looks a little different too. But the biggest change is the addition of a share button, which would allow users to share content with friends with just one click. With this new feature, users will be able to share content directly from Firefox wherever they are online. Firefox 23 has officially been released for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android.
7. Discussions of Anonymity
With the current NSA scandal and the advent of Google Glass, there is a lot of discussion nowadays about the importance of maintaining anonymity in a democratic society. The unnamed author of the book Tremble the Devil once wrote a blog post titled, “The Importance of Being Anonymous.” Though the piece may have some problems, it does bring up an interesting point: the ability to express your opinion anonymously is often the ability to express yourself safely. To that extent, the threat of exposure could limit your freedom of speech. In our democratic system, the ballot is secret so that you can have a say in what the government does without fear of coercion or retribution from others.
Without that anonymity, people may be pressured out of saying what they think and may, instead, conform to the most widely accepted opinions out of fear. The Internet is a place where a wide variety of viewpoints can be shared—where everyone gets a voice. However, the Internet is also a place of exposure and social pressure. At the moment, we’re at a delicate balance. We have to decide what the Internet is going to be. Is it going to be a place where people become more homogenous in their beliefs?
Or could it possibly be something different?
Tech and Startup News: 7 Things You Missed Today
Tech and startup news for August 5th, 2013
1. Government scientists reveal what they’ve come up with to make civilian internet faster, safer, and more efficient through quantum cryptography.”
US government laboratory scientists reveal that they’ve been operating a network that communicates in an exceptionally safe and potentially “hacker-resistant” environment since 2011. They have achieved this by using something called “quantum cryptography.”
What is quantum cryptography? Imagine the few seconds gap between the next loaded page when you click “buy” while online shopping. “That’s because of the cryptography,” says Hughes, a member of the laboratory team. It takes time to create a secure line to transmit sensitive information, like your card number, between your laptop, eBay, and your bank. But “in our case that just wouldn’t happen,” says Hughes, “in principle [our invention] could speed up the Internet.”
Researchers say that this hacker-resistant internet could be swiftly and cost-effectively applied to civilian internet. At consumer level, this would mean a safe and speedier internet when you go online, search up things on Google, and online shop. It would also help keep businesses and government institutions safe - secrets could finally stay private.
2. The Washington Post To Be Sold To Amazon.com Founder Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, who was made famous by his entrepreneurship, is purchasing the Washington Post for a hefty sum of $250 million. Bezos will become the new and sole owner of the Washington Post when the sale is complete. The Post Co, who currently runs the Washington Post, will change to an undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without the Washington Post.
The Washington Post has been the center of breaking domestic issues. Reporters from the Washington Post broke news of Watergate, and in June, the National Security Agency’s surveillance program. However, financial issues forced the company’s board to consider selling in order to bring in revenue.
3. The Story of Jaclyn Konzelmann: “Why I Quit Microsoft To Join A 5 Person Startup In Toronto”
When Jaclyn Konzelmann was working in Seattle for Microsoft, she would have told you that she loved it and would never leave. Now, she is currently in Toronto, sleeping on air mattresses after taking a huge pay cut because she is “homeless.” Although her life may have gotten harder, she is happier - and she is always surprised that people show no shock when she tells them her story.
Read the 6 things that drove her away from Microsoft and her journey leaving the software giant behind at http://jaclynkonzelmann.tumblr.com/post/29070457063/why-i-quit-microsoft-to-join-a-5-person-start-up-in
4. FBI might be using malware to try to expose anonymous identities.
Over the weekend, security researchers at Tor noticed an anonymous “darknet” on their network. Some hacker was trying to use a custom made malware to identify its users. According to Wired’s sources, this hacker was not a random stranger - it was a member of the FBI.
This is worrying for advocates of privacy because Tor’s goal is to protect the anonymity of its users. The hacker got in through a security flaw in Firefox and identified users on websites hosted by Freedom Hosting. The telltale signs that this hack was a FBI operation are stemmed in the details of the hack. The hack took place in Reston, Virginia, miles away from the FBI’s headquarters. And, instead of breaking into the website to build a backdoor and steal usernames and passwords (like most hackers would have done), the malware simply identified users in an “evidence-gathering” way.
One possible reason for the monitoring of this website is Freedom Hosting’s infamous reputation for being a favorite destination for child porn. Anonymous actually targeted the hosting service in 2011 for hosting illicit and child pornographic material. Last Thursday, chid porn kingpin Eric Eoin Marques was arrested in Ireland - if the FBI was participating in an investigation related to Marques and his contacts in the United States, Freedom Hosting would be one of the primary places to look at.
On one hand, child pornography is highly illegal and highly awful, so it makes sense to do what you can to stop it. But on the other hand, it seems as though the government is inching towards breaking privacy lines day after day. Is this a step in the right direction for justice or is this a step towards a slippery slope that will one day lead to a complete lack of privacy for the American citizen?
5. The Rise Of The Hardware Startup
GABA, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving networking between German-American and Californian businesses will host “The Rise Of The Hardware Startup” next week in Palo Alto.
GABA has assembled a panel of experts, with expertise ranging from corporations to startups to manufacturing and investing. The event takes place August 15th and costs $25-$34.
6. Too busy or too lazy? There’s a startup for that.
It’s a new trend: startups catering to people who can’t - or won’t - do something for themselves.
If you don’t want to clean the house, you hit up Exec or Homejoy. If you don’t want to go grocery shopping, you can have Instacart bring your groceries to your door. If you don’t feel like cooking, Hasty will bring you healthy, gourmet cooked meals. Prim will pick up and do your laundry for you. And if you somehow manage to get sick, you can call Mediacast and have them find you a doctor who makes house calls.
The average salary of a Bay Area employee is estimated at $101,278 in 2012. Long working days and a high salary leads to a propensity to pay others to do your chores for you - as can be seen in the successfulness and wide use of these startups. For example, TaskRabbit, a startup that connects you to people willing to do your errands, is popular with many big tech names. An software engineer admits to using TaskRabbit to have someone stand in the Apple iPhone 5 line on opening day. Roy Bahat, former IGN Entertainment president, admits to have hired a TaskRabbit to drive his car from meeting to meeting.
Although some of the startups may seem impractical it is clear there there is a market for laziness and a lack of time in the Bay Area, and these startups are definitely exploiting it.
7. 10 Sci-Fi Hacks That Are Now a Reality
Ten things you can now do thanks to the advancement of technology: Remote-Control a car; Kill someone with technology (hack their pacemaker, hack their heart); Spy on someone by hacking their phone; Impersonate a cell phone tower; Monitor people through their TV; Hijack a house through home automation systems; Induce power outages through cyber attacks; Spy on surveillance cameras; Spy on entire cities and Clone employee’s access badges to gain access to private facilities by scanning the badge.
The Technology Powering the Fantasy Football Machine
FX’s comedy “The League” is preparing its fifth season this year thanks to its success and the popularity of fantasy football. The show follows six adults holding onto childhood friendships through a fantasy football league taken way too seriously.
And while the show is fiction, the premise is common fact throughout the country. Fantasy football is big business. Forbes reported that 32 million people participated in 2010 and it’s a number that continues to rise.
But unlike “The League,” many who play in the same league live in different states or possibly a different country. The technology that drives fantasy football makes it possible to compete as if the person is in the same room.
In its infancy, player statistics like rushing yards, touchdowns and interceptions were gathered from the sports section of the morning paper. Participants looked for each player on their fantasy roster and wrote down the stats by hand to figure their score for the week. It was a process that could take hours each week.
Now the process is completely hands-off. Companies like Yahoo and ESPN have teams dedicated to tracking statistics and points. A fantasy player only needs to set his or her roster before the weekend and the technology does the rest.
Not only do fantasy players no longer track their own stats, the automation is done in real time. Adrian Peterson scores a touchdown? You’ll see those points on your board within seconds. You can even track your players on live television without switching the channel. If you’re a Sunday Ticket subscriber through cable.org or another retailer, you can track up to 18 players live on game day. If one of your guys makes a big play, Sunday Ticket will alert you and even let you watch the footage.
Xbox and Mobile
Microsoft announced in May that it would broadcast exclusive NFL footage to Xbox and Microsoft tablet users this season, ranging from unique views during the game to a live view at the coach’s playbook as he calls the offense. The features can be enjoyed by the casual fan, but they serve a fantasy purpose too. Like Sunday Ticket, the new Microsoft features will let fan track their fantasy player and receive real-time updates with their progress. Anyone who owns an Xbox and is a Sunday Ticket subscriber is going to have a good time with this.
Mobile tech is also moving the game forward. You don’t even need a laptop or TV to track fantasy stats anymore. ESPN, Yahoo and the NFL all have mobile apps that let you set rosters, check stats and keep up with other teams in your league.
Fantasy football isn’t just about statistics, it’s about the competition and smack talk between you and your friends. When everyone is separated by state lines, it’s tough to talk trash over an e-mail. Technology like Skype and Google Hangouts lets everyone get in a virtual room together and tout (or mourn) their own lineups on Sunday. If you activate Google+ premium features, you can fit 15 people in a single hangout, which could be the whole league.
Special Report: Google Glass Arrest
For the first time, an arrest has been caught on film using Google Glass.
The arrest took place a couple of weeks ago when a fight broke out at a fourth of July celebration. At the time, documentary-maker Chris Barrett had taken his computer-eyeware to the Jersey Shore boardwalk to film fireworks but ended up recording the fight.
After the celebration, Barrett posted his footage on YouTube, claiming in his post that “this video is proof that Google Glass will change citizen journalism forever!”
In an interview with NPR, Barrett said that Google Glass could help ensure the safety of journalists since it could allow war reporters capture footage while leaving their hands free to protect themselves. He added that it could also help reporters film situations discreetly when knowledge of their filming could put them in danger.
Yet it is that same ability to film discreetly that has many privacy advocates worried. Christopher Gevrey of Reuters claimed that Barrett’s footage “foreshadows the rapidly approaching future where everything can be filmed serendipitously by folks wearing devices like Google Glass without the knowledge of the parties involved.”
In response to a series of questions from 10 privacy regulators from around the world, Google said last month that it won’t be changing any of its privacy policies for Glass-specific concerns. However, Google has announced that the company will think carefully about lawmakers’ feedback.